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Cafe Boulud: how stuffy?

Girlfriend's 30th birthday is fast approaching, and I currently have a reservation for Cafe Boulud, but part of me wonders if it will be a little on the stuffy side? Will two young(ish) downtown rock 'n roll types feel like we're invading our parents domain? Don't get me wrong, we dress up nice, but the Upper East Side isn't a normal stomping ground.

Have also considered Cru, though my date doesn't drink and I know that a big part of the Cru experience is the wine.

Promise to write a review of wherever we end up (which reminds me, we were just at Blue Hill. Need to review that one!)


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  1. I've only been for lunch, and I would say it is not inherently stuffy, the restaurant was more populated by people the age of my in-laws, with whom we were eating, than us (just either side of 40). Jackets aren't required, but most men were wearing jackets. If I were you - and 30 - I'd go to Wallse or Veritas or Annisa.

    1. I went last year for my 34th b-day and it was not too stuffy....definitely not Soho dining, but not stuffy either. On a Saturday night it is buzzing with all types and ages. Lots of couples dining for a special occassion, regulars schmoozing with other regulars, DellaFemina was there when we dined. The service is great and I like how they have the menu broken out.

      With that, once was enough for me for a while..... with all of the other great choices in the city. We did go to CB in West Palm and although the atmosphere was superb...for the price the food was not memorable.

      If I were to choose an alternative for a 30th I might just choose Eleven Madison Park.

      Enjoy wherver you choose.

      1. I'd go to either Wallse or Eleven Madison Park. The one thing that I can't stand about Daniel Boulud's restaurants (all of them) is the snobby attitude.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ellenost

          I've not encountered a snobby attitude at his restaurants - and was particularly pleased by the hospitality shown to me recently when lunching alone at DB Moderne. I've been to Daniel and Cafe Boulud as well.

          1. re: ellenost

            We have never encountered snobby service at any of Daniel Boulud's restaurants. When we had lunch at Cafe Boulud a couple of weeks ago, our waitress couldn't have been nicer. In fact, when the couple sitting at the table next to us wanted to have their picture taken (obviously, visitors to NYC), she happily helped them out several times.

            Sometimes, people mistake a reserved attitude for snobbisness. We always treat servers at all restaurants in a very cordial manner, and I have found that that invariably causes even the most reserved server to be friendlier.

            1. re: ellenost

              As 23 year old in a not so great suit taking his 22 year old gf to a fancy dinner at Daniel, I was extremely pleased at how not stuffy it felt.

            2. I don't find the place stuffy at all, nor do I find the staff stuffy. The food is magnificent, and it is not entirely an older generation dining here. A 30th birthday deserves to be at a special place. If you like quality food, then dine here. You will not be sorry.

              If food does not matter at all, then I will suggest a few run of the mill places to you.

              Go to Cafe Boulud and enjoy!!

              1. I had a lovely meal there with my then-bf when we were both 22 and we didn't feel too young at all. And we didn't wear jackets. And the food was amazing, although that was under a different chef. The place felt almost casual, in an expensive kind of way, like this was the place to go on your private chef's night off.

                1. I'm glad that you've had good experiences, but as I said before the behavior at the host/hostess stations at both DB Bistro Moderne and Daniel (before it became Cafe Boulud) was downright rude--both times trying to seat me at unacceptable tables (Daniel: at a table that the NY Magazine reviewer had laughed at and turned down too; DB Bistro Moderne: at a table in the front next to a family with noisy children when the back part of the restaurant was 90% empty). Since I dine out quite often at fine restaurants, and since none of these other restaurants have ever tried to pull the same kind of stunts as I have experienced at Daniel's restaurants, I feel it's important to let the OP know the shabby treatment they might experience. Needless to say I'll never patronize any of Daniel's restaurants again.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ellenost

                    Sorry you had the bad experiences. Is it possible that at DB Bistro Moderne they thought they were doing the right thing by putting you in the front room - that you might feel shunted to Siberia or something in the back room?

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      Not sitting next to a family with small children (that were acting appropriately for small children). The back room is more formal; the front room is more casual which made sense to seat the family with the children so that they wouldn't disturb anyone else. The front room was otherwise empty. It would have made more sense for the host to ask where we preferred to dine. We had a reservation, but had not dined at DB Bistro before. Once seated, the waiter was quite nice, and the food was excellent. But first impressions do count, and the incorrect treatment by the host (and the previous bad treatment at Daniel) has soured me on Daniel's restaurants.

                      1. re: ellenost

                        The first time we went to Daniel, when it was still in the current Cafe Boulud space, they tried to seat us at a very unappealing table. I am very picky about where I sit, and if I don't like a table, I say so right up front, while my husband is more laid back about where we sit. Needless to say, there was no way I was going to accept that table. But before I could even open my mouth to object, I looked at my husband and the expression on his face told me he was appalled at the idea of being seated there. The hostess also took note of his expression and, without him saying a word, immediately led us to a really good table. For the rest of the evening, not only did we have a spectacular tasting dinner, but we also had some of the best service we have ever had. If they had not done anything about giving us a better table, I would have felt as you do. But, in this case, we left being very happy campers and have since had many wonderful meals in that space after it became Cafe Boulud.

                  2. Unfortionatly someone has to be seated at these tables. I dont think that it is personal. Maybe restaurant interior designers should try to design or arrange the dining room in a way that there will not be a bad table.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sl1

                      What I find unacceptable is that since my dining companions were my mother and my sister, certain restaurants believe that women will accept lousy tables that men won't. I won't accept lousy tables, and will not return to any restaurant that subscribes to the belief that women patrons are second class citizens. That is why I do not dine at Daniel's restaurants. That is also the reason that I do dine at Aureole, Bouley, Danube, Wallse, and Eleven Madison Park (never had a bad table at any of these restaurants--even for my first visit).